Charles Tendell understands the intense power of words and the therapeutic benefits of positive conversation. He has worked hard getting the community to collaborate through open communication and open minds, encouraging them to work through disagreements and focus on common goals.
“I love New Bern,” he said. “This town is amazing. There are so many great people in it and so many great things to do—I don’t even know where to start.”
A self-proclaimed “Army brat,” Charles was born in Durham but was soon whisked away to Germany, along with many other destinations around the globe. He showed an early interest in computers and electronics, which ended up becoming a strong component in his personal and professional life.
After graduating high school in 2000, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Army. He quickly showed his aptitude for technology and ended up assisting other agencies with his abilities.
“The stuff that I did early on in my career was computer forensics,” he explained. “I worked with law enforcement on a local or federal level catching cybercriminals—most of the bad guys on the internet: the Craigslist scammers, the child pornography people, stuff like that. When I was in the Army, I did a little bit of forensics for them doing data recovery.”
He was also involved with renowned companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, working on satellites with the launch operations and anomaly disposal team. In 2006, Charles retired from the 82nd Airborne Division as a missile defense crewmember. He continued to do data and infrastructure defense for large corporations and soon started his own private consulting business. In 2012, he founded a cyber security company, offering clients advanced security services for a variety of platforms and interfaces, and ended up becoming a strong advocate for destigmatizing the term “hacker.”
“I’m an ethical hacker by trade,” said Charles. “So I’ve got a unique way of thinking about technology and the internet, things of that nature. Most of the time the hackers are the good guys. We see the world differently, like it’s a giant puzzle to figure out how we can maneuver around and make something work better than it did.”
Around 2016, Charles and his five children were visiting family in Fayetteville after experiencing a life-changing circumstance and were living out of an RV for a while. He decided to go for a little trip to get away, ended up in New Bern and decided it was home.
“Crossed that bridge and never left,” he said. “And it was just like, ‘we’re supposed to be here. We’re not going anywhere, people! This is it.’”
Charles carried over his cybersecurity career, but he soon focused on another favorite venture: radio. He had previously hosted his own cybersecurity podcast called “The Charles Tendell Show” from his own studio set up over his garage. After moving to New Bern and getting a feel for the community, he decided to pursue that passion. During the first half of 2018, he moved into an empty space inside the O. Marks building in downtown New Bern and set up a studio that soon became known as New Bern Live.
“When I moved to New Bern, I spent the first couple of years doing my thing and looking around the city and seeing what everybody else was doing,” said Charles. “And I noticed something was missing, and it was that everybody’s talking about what everybody else is doing, but nobody’s talking to one another.”
That gave him the idea to take people with opposing views, sit them down together and talk it out. He presented the idea around town and got positive feedback from the community, so he got the show up and running just before Hurricane Florence arrived.
When the storm was about to hit, Charles and his family were planning to leave. They had gotten all packed up and ready to go when a feeling came over him that he should stay and do something to help the community.
“And thank God it did because New Bern Live was the only thing broadcasting,” he said. “The radio station flooded for the first time ever, the television stations were all on Oaks Road and they flooded. By the end of it all, the only person broadcasting, where everybody was, was New Bern Live.”
Since then, Charles has interviewed all sorts of people, including members of the local municipality, city and regional government, faith leaders and many other community members from a variety of organizations.
“I know at one point everybody assumed New Bern Live was ‘The Charles Tendell Show,’ but it only works if it’s me and everybody else,” said Charles. “Anybody that wants to come on—anyone that actually wants to contribute to that future where we’re all working together to do something and having those challenging conversations—are all welcome to come here.”
The whole premise of his radio shows is to create a platform for community members to come together and have difficult conversations, sharing thoughts and feelings while also providing a chance to discover new perspectives. He uses his platform to keep the community informed on local events and doesn’t hesitate to broadcast community events he believes will benefit others.
Charles is a big believer that open communication can remove boundaries and strengthen bonds, as long as everyone is willing to do their part by keeping an open mind and considering other viewpoints. He encourages anyone who is interested in becoming part of the conversation to contact him by visiting newbernlive.org, stopping by the studio (located in the O. Marks building downtown) or calling the studio at 252-631-0139.
He has also worked with many different nonprofits, including RCS and Promise Place, and was on the founding executive board of the Young Urban Professionals of Eastern North Carolina.
“I’ve supported a good number of organizations over the years,” said Charles. “My current favorite is Hesed Place. The motto there is ‘the whole journey.’ It’s a really cool nonprofit here locally.”
Hesed Place provides severe trauma survivors with resources to help them navigate the stages of their healing journey. Anyone in need of their assistance can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles is also an advocate and mentor for veterans. He goes out of his way to support local veteran organizations and events. He does all he can to help veterans obtain the services they need and assists them with navigating the often tedious processes of getting there.
“I come from a long line of people who served this country,” he said. “My mother was federal law enforcement for 20 years, and then when she retired, she joined the VA to be a field examiner. So between her and I, we’ve got a good bit of knowledge on the way the department of veterans affairs works. And I can’t tell you how many veterans I run into who are just dealing with the VA—it’s a nightmare.”
While Charles admitted that the past couple of years have had their ups and downs, as long as he’s helping to bring the community closer together and addressing tough topics in a respectful and insightful way, he knows it’s worth it.
“I’m involved in this community just to get the conversations that need to be had, had and to introduce people who may not otherwise get to meet one another,” he said. “So if you’ve got an opinion or an idea, I’d love to hear from you.”
Do you know somebody who should be featured in 52 Faces of Community? Visit https://www.newbernsj.com/52faces and click on the “Submit a Face” button.
From the nominator:
Charles Tendell has become a face and a voice for those in Craven County and surrounding areas. As a disabled veteran, a husband, a father, a small business owner and a resident of New Bern, NC, his goal is to keep the citizens of Eastern NC well informed. He offers a neutral venue for people in the community to share their thoughts and feelings, including educators, business owners, clergy, musicians, nonprofit organizations, law enforcement, city, state and county politicians and so many more. Charles uses several platforms to communicate: radio, live podcasts and social media in his own Charles Tendell Studio in the historic O. Marks building on Middle Street. Charles will also video or live stream other events in the community that he thinks is important to share, but always for the better good of the community. He is an advocate for other US veterans and mentors them when possible.